This interview, conducted over Facebook by Arts and Entertainment Editor Kendra Quinlan, features Austin North, a second-year biochemistry major / music minor at UCSD and talented guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. You can watch him perform songs from his latest EP, “I’m A Homo, Phobe,” a self-referential “haha,” at The Loft at 8:00 P.M. this Friday, January 15.
KENDRA: So, just for the sake of introductions, what is your major and your year at UCSD?
AUSTIN: I’m a second-year biochemistry major and music minor.
KENDRA: And how long have you been interested in music?
AUSTIN: Probably 11 years, since I started learning guitar.
KENDRA: Ok! So your latest EP, I’m A Homo, Phobe, was released just a couple of weeks ago? Is that correct?
AUSTIN: Yes! Around two weeks ago.
KENDRA: Nice! Well, congratulations on that by the way. I had a listen myself and thought it was really good.
AUSTIN: Thank you! That means a lot.
KENDRA: I guess my first question would be, what is the inspiration behind this work? As a work overall, what was the goal of the piece?
AUSTIN: I wanted to make something different than what’s being heard around alternative and rock music today. I hear so many bands that sound so similar, so I guess I just wanted to make something to stand out, at least in some way.
KENDRA: What do you think is being heard around alternative and rock music that you want to differentiate from?
AUSTIN: I’m not too sure how to define it. I don’t think any of the music I’m talking about is bad per se, there are just times where I’ll listen to four or five new bands in a night and not be able to distinguish them from each other. A lot of it is just overbearingly upbeat, and while that has its place in all music — including mine — I want to be able to show a broader and more accurate spectrum of what’s inspiring me to actually write these songs.
KENDRA: So in order to differentiate yourself — to give something that was new and original — what steps did you take? For example, lyrics, or instruments, or special effects? I guess a better way of phrasing it: What methods did you choose to make your sound unique?
AUSTIN: One of my main methods I guess would be not being afraid of my voice. I think it’s definitely somewhat unique, and I really had to push myself to not be afraid of making it front and center when making my music. Along with that, one of my other main methods was to kind of integrate some complex instrumentation on guitar with more poppy, mainstream sounds. Alternate tunings and all sorts of ideas like that were what helped me make it my own.
KENDRA: Yeah, I noticed your EP has a lot of guitar-heavy instrumentals. How did you go about accomplishing the making of this album? Did you do it all yourself?
AUSTIN: I did do it all myself! Each song was its own unique process. The song “Font” was the first song I wrote from the EP and as soon as I wrote it, I knew my end goal was an EP with similar feel. So although each song was its own process, I definitely tried to keep the context of the other songs in mind. When it comes to recording, I recorded most of everything with various instruments and programs in my little apartment room piece-by-piece, so it was quite a long process.
KENDRA: All in all, how long would you say this composing and editing process took for all of the songs?
AUSTIN: The composing process usually varies the most for me, with some songs like my song “Greens” being written in an hour, and other songs like “Brown Eyes” being the culmination of a few months of writing different snippets and parts of the song spontaneously. The editing and recording process, however, is pretty quick for me though. Not easy, but I force myself to record every part of a song in one session, and then edit the next day for a fresh listen.
KENDRA: So with 6 songs, it must have taken at least several months, if not more?
AUSTIN: It definitely did! I started writing for this EP in June or July, and I finished the last song in November. Inspiration comes at random — and sometimes far apart — times.
KENDRA: As you are going along through this process, did you find any bands or albums inspirational in terms of sound, subject, structure, or style?
AUSTIN: I definitely did! The album that really inspired me to start this project has kept with me through all of the process. It was the album Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear. One of the things I unconsciously do when I listen to music that inspires me is visualize landscapes that it makes me think of, and this album’s visual in my head was really a place I wanted to be able to create with my music as well.
KENDRA: You have this work incorporating your guitar-based instrumentals and poppy sounds. I felt that a large portion of your EP was centered on your voice — in particular on your lyrics. It seems to me that you highlighted your EP’s lyrical aspects. Would that be correct?
And as far as lyrics go, what would you say is the story you are trying to tell? Because the EP itself is titled I’m A Homo, Phobe. And that is a very straight-forward, powerful thing to say that is very unique, in my opinion. It grabs your attention. So I’m curious, what was the overall story of your EP? What was the reason for your naming your work I’m A Homo, Phobe?
AUSTIN: I didn’t purposefully focus on the lyrical aspects of the songs any more than other parts. However, with each song I did strive to write meaningful lyrics. I like a no-holds-barred method of writing, where I don’t hesitate to say things that may be a little intense. I think this applies to the title of the EP too. Its meaning is less important to me than the impact the words themselves have, as something arguably controversial and out there. There is no overarching lyrical theme other than making the songs about myself, the title following that theme as well.
KENDRA: Ok, so with that said, are the songs related to each other more in stylings? Or would you say that they’re more individual and separate? You had said earlier that you wanted to make more works like your song “Front.”
AUSTIN: They’re definitely related to each other in the stylings! That song was the start, and every song that followed came from a similar place instrumentally, with the acoustic and percussion-like guitar usually in the background. I think beyond the specific instruments, the main instrumental idea was to be neither absolutely negative nor positive. Each song was a reflection of me at the time they were written, and I think that the music behind the words shows that as well.
KENDRA: Now that you are finished with recording your EP and released it, what are your future plans with music?
AUSTIN: I plan on writing and recording new material just as I have before, as well as re-recording the EP in a new studio I have contacted to get physical copies circulating in Spring 2016. I play gigs around my hometown in Texas very consistently, and I plan on expanding that to San Diego soon as well. The end goal is to release an LP and pursue music as a career, and I plan on doing everything I can to make that happen.
KENDRA: Wow, that’s very cool! Congratulations on your EP. I’ll have to buy a hard copy once they hit stores. Right now, it’s available on Soundcloud?
AUSTIN: I’m working out selling it on campus! And till then, it is available on my Soundcloud.
KENDRA: Sounds good! Good luck with everything, and thank you so much for the interview!
AUSTIN: Thank you!